Performing Corporate Magic. Part One.
For over a decade, almost my entire income as a magician came from performing at corporate events. I look back on these as a very special time; the work was good and the money great. Sadly, the golden era rather wound down. I have recently noticed that there is a very welcome ‘spike’ in this kind of work at the moment and I want to share some thoughts on the topic. I am going to start with a warning and then cover some key points in a fairly random manner.
Any corporate date is booked on the strength of your promotional video; after the show you may well receive more bookings based on the strength of your performance and how well it was received. However, your potential future employer, if he is from another company, is going to need that strong video to show to his colleagues, in order to lock in the booking. I recently wrote at some blog posts about promotional videos so I’m not going to repeat the information here!
The most important thing to remember in a corporate event is that if you really mess up, it could lose the executive who booked you his job. Read that again! It might just turn out to be a disastrous show for you, but it might mean, the guy responsible for you getting your check, is out looking for another job, or out of line for his next promotion.
The above paragraph is the reason that you need to follow a very careful ‘Golden Rule,’—if in doubt, leave it out! Anything that could be offensive should be removed from the show, this particularly applies to jokes/tricks that can in any way be viewed as sexist, racist or involve bad taste/language. Maybe only one person will be offended but that can be enough. It is a sub-division of ‘Murphy’s Law’ that the one person you offend will be the most important person present, either that or they will email that person the day after the show.
Another pitfall to avoid is any trick that involves using a spectator from the group in a routine that can embarrass him/her in front of their co-workers. Also avoid using any of those ‘cutesy’ put-down lines that you find in magic books on comedy—they are all years out of date and corny anyhow. If you use a volunteer from the audience, make him look good. If you want to have a butt for your comedy—make it yourself. I’m not saying this to promote good manners, I’m saying it because it is good business, and business is the engine that drives corporate bookings.
Often the executive hiring you will give you advice that indicates you should ‘let it rip’ or even give you a list of people to ‘pick on.’ He may be very misguided in this. Do not take directions from amateurs; he certainly wouldn’t follow your advice about how to conduct his business affairs. I have also discovered that the people they suggest you involve in the show are often the very worst ones to actually include!
They do love to tell you whom to ‘work with’ though, so I have several effects that involve spectators in a rather non-invasive manner and it usually keeps your corporate contact happy if you include them in this way. This is one area that I use my ‘Linking Finger Ring Routine’ to good effect, as it includes them but keeps their participation to a minimum. On the other hand, if you perform a ‘Burned and Restored Bill’ then you are missing a good bet if you don’t borrow it from a financial officer in the company. That would never occur to the executive who hired you when giving you ‘notes.’
One thing that makes it easier to book a corporate event is the ability to customize your show around the client’s product, especially if you can add a good-natured dig at the company’s chief rival. I often use a variation on the late, great Alan Shaxon’s ‘Confabulation,’ and have found it to be very effective indeed in this capacity. I describe my handling in some detail in my lecture and include a full synopsis of the routine in my ‘Yellow Lecture Notes.’ This effect comprises a perfect framework to give the impression of a great deal of customizing without actually needing to change much at all.
Usually the client will suggest you produce the CEO, in a puff of smoke, during you show—or turn him into a tiger! Neither idea is very practical in a normal banquet room or meeting situation and it is nice to have a good pitch for a routine that includes their product and sales team. It is especially nice when it doesn’t involve much more than putting a wallet, pen and stack of index cards in your pocket.
You can order copies of my “Cruise Magic 101,’ ‘Ultimate Linking Finger Ring Routine’ books and my ‘Yellow Notes’ from my website, at www.nicklewin.com